Freya Collins Hallahan

Native Title
Winter 2018

During the penultimate semester of my Bachelor of Arts I applied for an Aurora Internship. Throughout my degree I had majored in Gender Studies and Australian Indigenous Studies. Therefore, I had always been interested in the possibility of working in the Native Title sector. When I applied, I knew about how the Native Title Act had functioned in recent Australian history from research that I had done during my degree. However, I had no knowledge of what it would be like to work in the Native Title sector, and was eager to gain insight into the role of an academic within this field. Fortunately, I was accepted for an eight week Aurora placement at First Nations Legal & Research Services (First Nations) in Melbourne.

I interned for my Host organization’s Research Team, which supports Aboriginal Victorian’s with the preparation of Threshold Statements. A Threshold Statements is required of a traditional owner group who wishes to negotiate a recognition and settlement agreement with the State of Victoria under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 (Vic). A threshold statement includes information that formally documents a traditional owner group’s association to country, the basis of their group description and the proposed agreement area. The First Nations research team’s role is to provide information on a group’s connection to country. This involves working with traditional owners to record oral history, and analyzing primary and secondary source materials to provide a robust historical context for a Native Title claim.

When I arrived at my Host organization I was warmly welcomed by the Manager of the Research Team. He provided me with an overview of the organization including the types of projects that his team was working on and the state of Native Title affairs in Victoria. I was then introduced to my supervisor, a historian working in the research team. My supervisor tasked me with a research project that drew on the knowledge and skills that I had gained at university; I was to write a report on the underrepresentation of Aboriginal women in archival sources. This project was thoroughly enjoyable, as I was interested in the topic and excited to contribute to my Host organization by providing information about the limitations of written historical records to emphasize the importance of oral history.

By the end of my internship I had significantly improved my research and writing skills, and produced a research report that I was proud of. This was due to the support of my supervisor, who had provided me with guidance and encouragement. Further to this, I had gained insight into the role of an applied researcher working in a professional setting, which has influenced my decision to add an Honours year to my Arts Degree. Overall, I highly recommend an Aurora Internship, it is an excellent opportunity to learn more about working in the Native Title space and to further develop the skills and knowledge that you gain at university.

For more information about the Aurora Internship Program visit:  Applications are open in March and August each year via their website.